The topic of mental health has become a bigger area of focus for many Americans, as mental health struggles are discussed more openly in an effort to reduce the stigma. As a result, Americans are expecting employers to provide mental health benefits as part of a larger benefits plan. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers were placing increased emphasis on delivering mental health benefits to employees, a need which has now increased even further due to stresses caused by the pandemic.
Here’s a look at how COVID-19 is impacting employee mental health, and how employers can help.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Mental Health
According to a Mind Share Partners study, conducted in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP at the end of March 2020, almost 42% of respondents felt a decline in their mental health since the COVID-19 outbreak began. For employees of color, the strain of COVID-19 on mental health has additional complexities. There are known disparities in care given to white Americans compared with Black Americans, who are now the racial group most likely to die from COVID-19. Reduced access to quality health care, coupled with the stress caused by structural racism, puts people of color at an elevated risk for mental health struggles.
Even before the pandemic, organizations were steadily improving their mental health benefits offerings—an effort that is likely to continue after COVID-19. A study conducted by NFP, an insurance broker and consultant, found employer mental health offerings have increased from 34% in 2014 to 75% in 2018.
How Employers Can Meet their Employees’ Mental Health Needs
According to a study cited in Employee Benefit News, investing in employee wellness and mental health is a smart business move. For every dollar invested in accelerating workplace best practices for mental health, organizations get a $3 to $5 return in the form of better attendance, productivity and customer service. So, how can organizations provide the support their employees need?
- Normalize mental health challenges and share personal struggles openly with employees.
- Model taking time for self-care during the day to show employees they can and should do the same.
- Establish intentional check-ins with employees.
- Invest in mental health trainings for HR and management-level employees.
- Be flexible in updating policies in reaction to current world events.
- Offer periodic company-wide days off to allow employees to focus on individual mental health and well-being without worrying about what they’re missing while being out of the office.
- Conduct employee surveys to keep a finger on the pulse of what employees want and need.